The two Godowskian commentaries on Weber’s celebrated pièce d’occasion
and Johann Strauss II’s Künstlerleben
provide taxing fare for the intrepid keyboard adventurer. Though the skill and dedication required to master these pianistic pyramids might deter all but a few, the delights for both artist and listener abound in the clever combination of themes and mounting technical challenges. The intoxicating Aufforderung zum Tanze
(‘Invitation to the Dance’) has appeared in several guises. Weber’s Op 65, composed in 1819, was subsequently (and most famously) orchestrated by Berlioz. But it was the extended keyboard version by the Liszt pupil Carl Tausig (1841–1871) that undoubtedly inspired Godowsky’s contrapuntal concert paraphrase. It was in his repertoire from as early as 1897, and probably before. The ingenuity of the thematic juxtapositions and the tongue-in-cheek élan of the conception has, in this writer’s experience, been known to elicit gasps of amused amazement from the audience. Godowsky’s terpsichorean devilment was published in 1905 and dedicated to Ferruccio Busoni. It was later amplified further by Godowsky for two pianos. When the composer and teacher Rubin Goldmark saw the score and told Godowsky admiringly that he could see nothing in the way of contrapuntal possibilities that had been omitted, Godowsky smiled and said: ‘Well, I shall show you that you are wrong.’ A few days later he invited Goldmark to hear the amended version of the work—with an optional third piano part added.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 1991